We’ve all seen some teams, whether in sports, music or business, whose performance transcends the normal. It’s as though the team members have each surpassed any personal performance limitations and are cooperating at some unseen energetic level. What is the key to team spirit and can we intentionally create it?
As a leader of project teams, I admit that I can get impatient with the slow process of team development, as they go through the classic stages of forming, storming, norming and finally performing. And even when they make it through these stages, the team bond is often only a surface level cooperation. It isn’t enough to achieve the miraculous performance that some teams manage to attain. The good news is that science has discovered the secret to team spirit, showing how it leads to greater performance and how to facilitate it.
What’s the Crucial Element of Team Spirit?
There is literally an electromagnetic field that surrounds a team and connects all members. This field can be scientifically detected and is comprised of the energy emitted by the heart of each member. When this field is strong and emotionally positive, it boosts the performance of each member, actually making them cognitively smarter and more creative. It also facilitates an unseen communication among all members that fosters cooperation. This field is quite literally the team’s spirit.
The key to exceptional team spirit is the emotional bond between the members. If there are seven members on a team, the team’s field will be strongest when each member feels a reciprocated emotionally positive connection with each of the other six members. Elite teams pay close attention to this emotional unity. Only some teams form this type of connectivity, but can it be intentionally cultivated?
How can You Nurture Emotional Unity in a Team?
Creating emotional team events can spark an exceptional team spirit. I remember attending a leadership retreat shortly after I joined a large corporation. We had all been asked to send in two pictures of our family prior to the retreat. As we walked into the meeting room the first morning, the family photos were being displayed, set to emotional music such as We May Never Pass this Way Again. We all became engrossed in watching the pictures, with nobody saying a word. I recall that I had been talking with someone while walking down the hall, but as soon as I felt the energy in the room, all I could do was get caught up in the moment. The emotional connection that this formed between us sparked a bond that lasted many years and fostered many triumphs.
I often do something similar with project teams. Each member is asked to put together ten to fifteen slides that depict “what moves their soul” or “what gives their life meaning”, along with a descriptive caption that appears on the slide. We call it “Pecha Kucha”, which originates from a Japanese event where pictures are shown in rapid succession. In a team setting, each person’s slides are shown, with each slide being displayed about six seconds. People usually include photos such as their wedding day, their children or pets, social causes they care about, and memorable occasions such as hikes with friends or special vacations. When we have these Pecha Kucha events and people see their teammates’ heartfelt pictures, it has a way of melting away any animosity or pettiness that exists between them. They instantly feel a deeper bond, and the more emotional the pictures, the deeper the bond.
Emotional events can also be heartfelt discussions among team members. Like many businesses, we have periodic team reviews, where teammates review how they’re doing. The key is getting people to really open up, to share their deepest thoughts, and they often need a role model. I recall one situation where there were ten people on the team, and we had been halfway around the circle, but the discussion had only been typical, superficial business talk. Then it was my turn. I opened up, sharing my deepest fears about our inability to satisfy some customers, as well as my jubilation about certain accomplishments. I expressed my emotion so authentically that we all felt something shift in the room. Following my lead, the rest of the team found it possible to express their deepest emotions, and we all left the room feeling the greater connection. This team became the one most sought after by customers.
Left on their own, teams may develop these kinds of emotional bonds over time. But why chance it, and why delay it? Help them get emotional and create that team spirit that we all crave.
As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.Share